Done with KU

My time at KU so far has been largely unproductive. I’ve completed a seminar course and an Intro to Operating Systems course (which I had at UMKC as well when I was an undergrad), and for the two grad courses I’ve attempted so far (this and last semester), I’ve had to drop each one. Just due to my schedule of having 20 credit hours to teach last semester and 17 credit hours this semester, it just is not doable – and that’s clear after this first homework assignment that I bombed.

Now, this semester is also my last full-time semester teaching, because the grant paying for my position ends, so I will be going back to part-time adjuncting. I will have more time then. But, KU doesn’t feel like a good fit. I hate the 40 minute commute out into the middle of nowhere (There is NOTHING between Overland Park, KS and Lawnrence, KS). I don’t have the time to thoroughly work on my homework, and while at first I felt like this was a personal failing, now I feel like this is more to do with my schedule than anything. I was envious of students who did better at the project than me, but then I also have to realize that if you’re not working 12 hours a day twice a week, and you live on campus, and you can walk to go see the instructor during their office hours, you just have more resources available to you than I do.

This has been my third attempt at Grad School. And yeah, that kind of stings. I’ve failed three times:

  1. I enrolled at UMKC for a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction, 2013
    I completed the semester, getting A’s in three classes, including Linear Algebra. However, for one class I had to shadow a high school teacher and, having been homeschooled, the concept of public school is so foreign to me. The dynamic is so foreign to me. I also sub taught this semester, once at an elementary and once at a jr high, and that solidified my fear of school even more. I love teaching at the college level, but I’m afraid I don’t understand the school system before that.
  2. I enrolled at MS&T for a Graduate Certificate in Computer Science, 2013
    With the intention of completing a certificate and then transferring to their grad program, I enrolled in the certificate for Computer Security – which I found out that I’m really just not that interested in. And this expensive lesson taught me that I need to work on topics I’m passionate about in grad school, because it’s hard to get through on mere lukewarmness.
  3. I enrolled at KU for a Masters in Computer Science, 2016
    I completed my first semester of taking an undergrad class and the graduate seminar, and the following semester I attempted to take Data Mining. However, the volume of work required was too much for me, when I was barely surviving my work schedule. I dropped out. This semester, I registered for Visualization. Both of these topics are interesting to me, but the amount of time you need to put into them is just time I do not have. This includes the time required to commute to school for special reasons (e.g., professor office hours).

Looking back, I actually enjoyed my work towards the Masters in Curriculum & Instruction. I miss it. I feel like the classes I took – about diversity in the classroom, and about students with special needs – taught me a lot. Computer Science is too focused on just computers, but I need some more of that knowledge around people, too.

So now what I’m thinking about is going back to UMKC, where I went for my undergrad. In my time at different colleges, I’ve learned that I’m really just not a fan of the university format. My experience at Longview, when working on my Associates Degree, was so enjoyable. I think the teachers at JCCC are wonderful and we all put a lot of work into the education aspect of what we do. But at university, it’s a different dynamic, a different feel. The teachers don’t feel invested in me, personally, the way I feel invested in my own students. I feel like the attitude towards me is “sink or swim”, while for my students I want them to do the best they can, and if they do poorly on a specific topic, I want them to learn from what they did wrong, and not have it doom their grade in my class. A second chance.

So if I’m unhappy with the university format everywhere, and if I haven’t found a fit at these other schools, why not just go back to UMKC instead? I know the faculty there and they know me, they like me. I’ve worked beside them as an adjunct as well as learning from them as a student for my undergrad. I feel like the faculty at UMKC want to see me succeed.

UMKC is also in the middle of Kansas City. Even if I have to commute 40 minutes to UMKC (which I wouldn’t have to), there’s at least stuff on the way. I can do errands on the way to/from school. I can visit my sister in Westport after class. It’s a central location close to a lot in Kansas City. And Kansas City is much more interesting than Lawnrence, Kansas.

And, I’m pretty sure I could get a Teaching Assistantship at UMKC. I’ve taught there before, I’m going to teach there this fall as an adjunct. For KU, I’ve been paying out of pocket, $1600 per one class per semester. They may have TA positions, too, but I don’t want to make that commute.

I think in the long run, I might try to get two masters degrees at UMKC – the Computer Science, and the Curriculum & Instruction.

UMKC is home, and after exploring other environments here and there, I think this is where I will be most likely to succeed.

Flarsheim Hall / Haag Hall at UMKC

University and “Non-traditional Students”

My bilinear interpolation isn’t right. I’ve spent hours and hours on the project, sent emails to the teacher, but I still feel confused and like I lack the resources I need to do well.

I’m a non-traditional student, I guess. I would be a traditional grad student if I had started working on my masters right after my bachelors degree, but I was ready to get out of university. I worked in the industry, and then found I enjoy teaching computer science at the college level, and have returned to university at several places at several times pursuing several different types of degrees.

I will be 30 next month, I live 30 miles away from the university I’m currently attending, I’m teaching 17 credit hours this semester (and 20 last semester). I don’t spend time on campus for funsies; I park, attend my class, pay the $1.75 for an hour of parking, and head home. I have more focuses in my life than just my education – my husband, my day job, and my startup. I really only have the weekends to work on homework and studying.

I remember my pain-points while I was an undergrad, and that makes me the teacher that I am. I understand that my students have a life, I understand that students learn in different ways. Sure, access services will provide you a note taker, but I’ve always wondered how you can rely on the quality of a peer note-taker? When you’re new to a topic, how do you know what is important to highlight, and what’s ok to miss? How do you even take notes fast enough to keep up with a teacher lecturing? (That’s always something I’ve had trouble with.)

Honestly, I’m sitting in class right now and I cannot read all of the teacher’s hand-writing. There is glare on the board coming from the cracked windows, his scrawl is sometimes messy and hard to make out.

I’m frustrated, and I’m unengaged, and while a few days ago I was questioning my own intelligence and self-discipline and abilities, I’m now feeling that university just isn’t accessible to a student like me.

Part of it is the schedule – all of these classes, even grad classes, are mid-day. I’m not working a traditional 8-to-5 job, but if I were it would be impossible for me to attend this college.

Part of it is distance – all classes are in-person, and it’s a 40 minute drive each way. I’m not on campus enough to justify a parking permit, and by paying-per-hour, there is a financial penalty if I need to come on campus more often than I need, such as for office hours.

Another thing is the traditional teaching style – teacher lectures, scribbles on the board, and generally doesn’t refer back to the book or any external data. You’d better show up to class, and you’d better be good at taking notes because there sure as hell aren’t any recorded lectures to refer back to, no slides to look at (and if it is, it’s full of pictures and header text but none of the content.)

And it’s so striking how much different I try to make the experience in my classes, and how shitty I feel in other peoples’ classes.

And part of me wonders if this is part of the whole “toughen up” culture around college and tech – stop whining and “get gud”; if I can’t take it, then I’m just not good enough.

Or if the teachers don’t think about the inaccessible nature of their classes? Or think it isn’t their problem; “There’s an access services! Students can get a note taker and extra time on exams, what more is needed?”

Or maybe they’re more interested in their research than their teaching?

I remember the pain-points of when I was an undergrad, and the same pain-points crop up when I’m a grad. In my classes I make sure that anything I go over in class is also accessible outside of class: My slides or notes are very detailed with all the steps needed. I have video lectures for some of my classes (when I’ve had time). I write exercises that focus on building up the students’ understanding of new topics, starting easy and working their way up. In class we work on things together, because I know that something can seem understandable in lecture, but once you begin trying it yourself that’s where the confusion crops up. I want to make sure students recognize what they’re not understanding, so that we can get through it together and build their foundations and understandings.

And while some students have reviewed me as “worst teacher ever” (Maybe 4 in total have given me that distinction), I feel that so many more honestly find my classes engaging, fun, and instructive. And hopefully they feel secure – they know I’m not trying to write tricky reverse-psychology questions, or throw them in the deep end to sink or swim. They’re here to learn, I’m here to give them resources and help them explore and practice and learn.

And then it’s frustrating when I’ve had so many classes that are all the same “lecture-lecture-lecture, now 3 2 1 go do it hope you’re good at taking notes”. And for the most part, that’s how I’ve taught myself to teach myself. But now in gradschool I’m running into scenarios where there is less information out there, and sometimes (often) the teachers use only themselves as the only resource in the class, which leaves me feeling dumb – at first – and then frustrated because I know I could do better if things were just a little different.


This semester, I’ve been teaching 20 credit hours – 6 classes. Two sections of Data Structures online, three sections of Discrete Math 1, and one section of Discrete Math 2, which is the first time I’ve taught Discrete Math 2. I’m getting it done.

I’m not putting as much effort into Data Structures as I had wanted this semester, but I am getting it done. Instead of lecture slides and videos, I just write detailed notes in the labs. I know my students aren’t reading the textbook, I really ought to do something to encourage that. They come to me with questions that would be covered by the textbook if they had read it. With a math textbook, it is easy to get them to use it – assign homework. With a textbook on data structures, it doesn’t so much have a repository of homework to do, but is more of a reference item. I need to figure out some homework to get them to go through it.

I’m pretty happy with Discrete Math 2 this semester. I haven’t had much trouble ramping up on each new section as I re-teach myself stuff I took in college maybe eight or so years ago. I’m happy with my LaTeX assignments that I’ve been writing up, and the class has gone smoothly. Discrete Math 1 has also been going alright, though my night class is mostly silent. It’s a Monday night class, my lectures are all up online in video form, and in class we work on the exercises I write. For my day classes, students pair up and discuss the work. For the night class, everyone works solo (even though I’ve tried grouping them up) and is quiet. Their lack of energy saps my energy, and my lack of energy saps their energy – at least, that’s how it feels. In my more “outgoing” classes, I find talking about the topics easier. The night class, nobody works together, nobody asks me questions, and they already have all the resources they need. It’s such a weird dynamic.


Beyond classes this semester, I find it really hard to operate outside of work-mode. I’m so over-worked that it can be hard to wind down or relax or focus on any other tasks I want to do. It’s hard to go to sleep at night after working all day, because I still want to do something fun. But with any spare time I find, I cannot think of what is fun to do; I haven’t spent much time on fun all semester so my brain isn’t configured to receive fun. Sometimes I can get lost in an evening of Overwatch, but otherwise I just feel tired and lethargic.

As the semester end slowly comes, I keep thinking about what Moosader thing to work on next. And my mind is fuzzy. It’s so hard to focus on anything outside of my day job. The big picture, the small picture, anything. It stresses me out.

And I know next semester I will be teaching 4 classes (two Discrete Math 2s, two Data Structures) and taking one grad class. I know I’ll continue being exhausted for the foreseeable future, and that to get anything done with my startup I’ll just have to adapt.

I’m hoping that I will go back to part-time Summer 2018, adjuncting at my school and maybe another, and hopefully that will free up my brain for working towards something that is really my career goal – my startup – and not just working towards my backup goal – teaching. I love teaching, and I’m fine doing it, but I’m not ready for this to be the “endgame” in the MMO of life and career. I figure, after my Master’s, I can work as a teacher anywhere as needed. To add in some extra income, to work on when I’m closer to a retirement age, do pursue if we move to India, etc.

I’ve always dreamt of running my own company, I’ve always loved making work for myself, but these things have always been shoved on the back burner due to school or work. I don’t have the luxury to just quit a job and focus on a startup full-time; I have bills to pay. I have student loans to pay off. But when I think of where I want to be in the future career-wise, what I’m doing now isn’t exactly what I envision.

It’s my birthday!

Me: “I should keep up with grading by grading one assignment every night!”

My day –

Teacher work: Wake up, eat, begin working on class prep for the day. Fund an old lecture on stacks and queues, write a lab, adjust an old project to be a new project.

Business work: Create a set of wireframes for contract app, send out emails to client and to interns.

Homework: Spend last half hour before class begins working on homework. Fix queue problem.

Teach class: Give lecture, read through documentation of my homework while my students work on their lab, answer questions as-needed.

Get home: Eat fast food, be lazy for a while.

Work on homework: Figure out WTF is going on with this programming assignment since the project spec doesn’t really give us much to go on.

Look at clock: 1:30 am…

Tomorrow’s plans: Wake up early, work on class prep before my first class, teach Discrete Math at 12:30, work meeting, then meet with intern after class to help them set up their tools, eat, teach my 6 – 9 pm class, do homework until late again.

Friday…: 9 am meeting at work, meeting with intern, then I guess homework all weekend. Also need to write a letter of recommendation and do my taxes and finish up the fiancé visa paperwork.

Maybe I’ll fit in grading somewhere around there.

More exams are better

Schedule for the Operating Systems class that I’m taking

I am stressed out. The class I’m taking has only two exams – Midterm and Final. The exams together are worth 45% of the grade. This is unfortunate for me, considering that I’m not too great at exams!

In yet another example of “things that frustrate me as a student, so I try to do better at as a teacher”, I don’t like exams that cover too many topics. Sure, make the final cumulative; that’s fine. But, during our “learning period” of the semester, I prefer a tighter cycle – Teach, practice, assess. Teach, practice, assess. You can spend more time doing in-depth study of fewer topics in order to prepare for that topic’s exam, rather than panicking and trying to cover every topic for the first 8 weeks and praying to your exam-god that your teacher’s exams aren’t unintuitive, and that what you think is important to study happens to be the same thing that your teacher thinks is important to study. (For reference, I also hate the lack of study guides!)

Schedule for the CS 200 class that I’m teaching

In my classes, I tend to have about 4 exams, including the final. I like to schedule my courses in chunks, with exams being the clear delimiter between topics. For exam 2, students will be studying up on arrays, pointers, memory management, and dynamic variables/arrays; all related and tie together. Exam 3 is everything OOPey. Structs, classes, inheritance.

For Data Structures, the first exam is over introductory content, wrapping static and dynamic arrays, and building a linked list. The second will be over stacks, queues, and dictionaries. The third will be over trees, heaps, and balanced search trees.

And for Discrete Math, each chapter of the book gets its own exam as well. A nice, clean, split between topics in the course.

I also either prepare study guides, or provide exams from a previous semester. Why? I don’t protect my old exams like a dragon hordes treasure because at some point, somebody is going to have that information. And they’ll distribute that information among their friends, so then only a small pool of people will have it. That’s not fair to everybody, and that’s also not really something I can stop. So start them all on even footing. I hope that it also discourages cheating if students know what I expect of them, and what I intend to assess of them.

So I’m nervous about this upcoming midterm. I have actually taken this class before, as an undergrad, at another university…

… and while I scored really well in my programming assignments, I just don’t do well on these kinds of exams. Math, gimme, I’ll ace that. Exams with coding on paper – ok, I can do that. Exams where you memorize a bunch of random information aimlessly? That is not my strong suit.

The first time I took the course, it was taught by Dr. Cotter, who is one of my favorite teachers. Even having an interesting teacher didn’t make it easy for me to do well!

Of course, I’m older now, I’m more experienced, I’m better at knowing how to learn. I have been using more resources as I study these concepts so that I have a better understanding than I would if I only studied from the textbook. But still, I resent not knowing what is expected of me. I resent the lack of respect for my time, by making the exam an amorphous mystery – good luck.

Lecture sucks

Scribbles on a slide that is incomprehensible if you're viewing independent of the class.

Scribbles on a slide that is incomprehensible if you’re viewing independent of the class.

One of my classes (that I’m a student in) is split into a lecture and a lab. The lecture is three days a week for one hour, and it is only lecture – slides without a theme (black text, white background), instructor talking, stuff from the textbook, occasional review questions.

They’re so boring. They suck. I can’t focus on them.

As a teacher, a lot of my teaching philosophy has been shaped by the frustrations I had as an undergrad — quizzes worded specifically to trick you, tests where the teacher doesn’t give you any clue as to what they think is important and what they will cover on the exam, boring-ass lectures…

Admittedly, since I teach at a community college, all of my classes are held in computer labs. It is wonderful. I have the ability to flip my classroom, record video lectures to watch as homework, and do programming during class. At university, there are too many students to have all computer science courses in labs – this is true at KU and at UMKC. Still, even though we are constrained to classrooms with desks instead of school computers, it would be nice to try to shake up the class in other ways.

My math classes aren’t just me lecturing the entire session. I give a short lecture, the video lectures that I recorded last semester are available online, and each week I write up an “in-class exercise“, which contains introduction text and examples, and then a series of questions. The students work in groups, and submit only one copy per team. They’re free to ask me questions as well. We spend time learning and practicing in the classroom, instead of putting all the onus on them figuring it out totally alone from the homework questions.

I resent pure lectures. They feel like a waste of my time. If the lectures are just going to reiterate content from the book, why not just let me read the textbook instead? Another big issue I have with lectures are that (1) I never go back and reference my notes. I just don’t. Over my 7 – 8 years as a college student, I just never go back, and (2) When I have taken notes in the past, any time I’m trying to recall something really specific, I can never find it. Probably because I cannot write as fast as teachers can talk.

This is why I record video lectures.

Students can watch again, pause, and watch when it is best for them.

Some teachers in previous classes would just record their in-class lecture – all 1+ hours of it – and post it as-is. You can’t find shit by sifting through such a long video, and it’s still boring as hell. It isn’t concise at all.

This is why I edit my video lectures.

I pre-script them. Usually, this means my slides are pretty detailed and it’s my main script. I export my slides to image files, put them in the video editor, then record my audio in Audacity. That way, I cut out all that is extra. Those go in the video lecture, too.

Then, if it’s a programming class, I use OBS to screen capture while I do some example coding – this is less scripted, but gives the same kind of example coding you’d get from a lecture. If it’s math, I open up GIMP and plug in my Wacom tablet and work some example problems. I further edit these down to get rid of long pauses and excess “ums” and speed up sections where I’m only writing stuff out or coding stuff after I have explained what I am doing.

I comb several books to figure out what points I need to make on the topic, and I put my slides together. Everything I would test over, I mention. I want my students to get everything they need, and be able to access that information at any time.

But it sucks for me.

I’m already the type of person who likes to control things, and gets annoyed when Redbox’s user interface isn’t as streamlined as I would like. (Brightspace has inconsistencies in user interface that drive me up a freaking wall!!!)

This means that when I’m a student rather than a teacher, I get really frustrated by the classes I take. I’m frustrated by the boredom, the inefficiency, the unknown, the schedule.

Best I can do? Basically go through the course content the way I would as a teacher – and write my own notes. Basically come up with the same sort of resources that I would as a teacher (because sometimes we have to teach ourselves the content while teaching, too – do you think I really remembered discrete math from when I took it 10+ years ago??)

So, just like I make repositories for my courses and throw all the content I make, available for anyone at any time (, I do the same with my classes. My notes, the code I write to try to learn the content, and so on. (

Programming for Discrete Math

  • Josephus Game
  • Magic Trick
  • Tennis Matches

I like using programming in the classroom. I’ve never seen programming really used much in any of the math classes I’ve had in the past, save from some odd MatLab projects (of course I opt for NumPy or SciLab – Go FOSS!), and sometimes reading paragraphs of math problem examples in a textbook just makes my eyes glaze over. Rather than try to demonstrate this stuff on the whiteboard, I decided to write some quick Python/PyGame programs for the examples from the textbook we’re using.

Another pro of this is that it helps me “grok” the content. I might read over something and think “yeah, that makes sense”, but I don’t really know it until I put it into practice, and the best way for me to put it into practice is to make it a program. When applying it in code, it’s more likely I’ll remember the fine details much better, just through the entire process of working on the program step-by-step.

Not sure if I’ll have my students do any coding (various prereqs, they might all know different languages), but it might be nice in the future!


Dear public internet diary,

Today I decided to pay for the GRE fee with my credit card, because I need to get the test over with so I can apply to colleges before the September – December deadlines, but I don’t think I’ll have the spare cash in June. (The financially awkward part of being an adjunct instructor is not quite knowing how pay is going to go when going between semesters)

Why is the exam so dang expensive? I will already most likely need to take out loans for college itself. I will have to do research into scholarships and assistantships. Sigh. I still have loans from my BS, and from the last two times I tried to get into gradschool for different areas. I thought that I had to pay off these loans before I could move onto the next thing, but it is clear that this debt will be with me for a while – so why let it stop me? I’ll just go back to school, gain more debt, and then once I have a career that I’m happy with, then I can spend the rest of my life paying it off. 😛

I’m looking forward to going back to school, I guess. I’m building a new career, or a couple new careers, because the life of a corporate software engineer doesn’t suit me. Since I’ve quit and been working on my startup and as an adjunct, and been on an antidepressant, I’ve been so happy – probably happier than I’ve been in years. I’m a bit disappointed in myself for not having an established career at the age of 28, but eh… who really has their shit together in their 20s anymore? But I have hope in my future now, once I realized that I don’t have to keep doing the same kind of work – the 8-to-5 open-floorplan boring but stressful programming work. I’m no longer making anywhere near $90k/yr, I’m trying to figure out how to manage my finances on a tight budget, but at least I’m not withering away anymore.